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Great Tin Cans… Where’s that String?

February 26, 2015

Here’s an interesting piece from JD Tuccille over at Reason Mag.  He talks about something that I think about quite a bit, as I live in a relatively remote part of the country with very limited access to the rest of the world.  I wonder how people would react if, one day, it totally lost any modern convenience?  All it might take is cutting the right communications cable.

What went with that cable was most cell phone service (every company but Verizon was down), the Internet (multiple ISPs run through the same pipe), the 911 system, and pretty much any digital communications connection you can imagine. Northern Arizona businesses largely became cash only—including the roadside stops vending gas to cross-country travelers. Trucks lined up waiting for the stations to get back online so they could process company credit cards to fill their tanks. It’s not like the drivers could just take out cash—ATMs were down, too.

My wife’s pediatric office was able to examine kids and patch them up. But checking on test results, getting reads on x-rays, scheduling appointments with specialists, and electronically sending prescriptions to pharmacies were all out. Old-fashioned landlines worked, but medical facilities are part of the modern world. Thoroughly digitized and electronic, hospitals, labs, and clinics were reduced to sending couriers back and forth.

The US communications grid is essentially a set of large-interconnected rings that are cabled along major trunk lines.  More remote places that aren’t right on the trunk are essentially spurs off those rings.  Mr. Tuccille’s example is one that could happen to many large swaths of the Western US, and some areas elsewhere.  Where there’s a lot of miles in between you and a city of a million people, it starts to get pretty lonely.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was discussing how to get somewhere with a friend.  I was patiently explaining a couple landmarks that could be easily spotted on a trip, and he responded by whipping out his cell phone and typing in the address.  I pretty much asked point blank what he’d do without the phone.  Well, that’s something we all need to consider.

I’d like to explain at this point that I’m not a totally crazy prepper hoarding ammunition in my closet… except that I’m a sort-of-crazy prepper who does have a month of food and multiple alternative cooking sources.  We can talk about the ammo later.  Most of the reason that I think about stuff like this is that stuff like this can happen.  And it’s not a bad idea to think a little bit about some answers just in case.

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